MSU softball will be traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. to compete in the FAU Kickoff Classic from Feb. 10-12 for its first tournament of the season. There, the Spartans' first opponent will be Boston University. In the following three days, MSU will also be playing Florida Atlantic University, Troy University and North Carolina State University. In 2016 the Spartans finished off their regular conference play with an 8-16 record, which ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten.
The Spartans return part-time starters in every field position this season, as well as four of five pitchers who’ve played collegiately. Junior outfielder Lea Foerster was the only member of the team to start all 55 games last season.
MSU’s offense during the 2016 season was one of the best in program history. The Spartans posted 11 top-10 single season performances including the following categories: a .289 batting average, 242 RBIs, a .446 slugging percent and 41 home runs.
Even though the Spartans ranked No. 10 overall in the conference, they were ranked throughout the upper half in the Big Ten in several categories.
MSU ranked No. 6 in hits and home runs. The team ranked No. 7 in batting average, No. 7 in slugging average, No. 8 in doubles, No. 9 in RBI and No. 9 in runs scored.
The 17 triples MSU garnered last season not only ranked third-most in school history, but also gave them the second place spot in the Big Ten in that category.
Representing the Spartans on the mound this season will be redshirt-junior Kristina Zalewski, and out of all the pitchers she has the best numbers going into 2017. She tied for No. 1 in the Big Ten with 44 appearances, and ranked No. 6 with her 29 starts. The pitcher also ranked No. 4 in strikeouts with 209, No. 15 with a 3.41 ERA and No. 9 in wins with 15. In the save category, she was tied for No. 3 with four.
Foerster had a career-best season with a team-high 64 hits, which ranked her No. 10 overall in the Big Ten. She also ranked No. 5 in doubles with 15 and tied for No. 6 for her three triples during the season. The outfielder averaged .364 at bat, which placed her in the top 15 in the conference. Her 123 career base-knocks are just outside of the career top 25 for MSU softball by just 20.
Senior Sarah Gutknecht started 52 games last season and is the only senior returning to the team this year. Gutknecht finished her 2016 season with a batting average of .366, in addition to 10 doubles and five home runs. Her 52 hits, 22 walks and 37 RBI were all single season career-highs for her. Gutknecht has a career total of 19 homers, which rank her No. 8 on the MSU all-time list.
Redshirt-freshman Celeste Wood led the Spartans with a batting average of .372, along with 11 doubles, six home runs and 40 RBIs. Wood’s RBI total was No. 10 all-time in a single season at MSU, while her batting average ranked No. 12 in a season.
MSU had an overall record of 27-28, surpassing 2015’s mark of 19-36 and Big Ten record of 4-19.
In 2017 the MSU softball schedule will include 12 games against eight NCAA Tournament teams from last year, as well as teams from 15 different Division I conferences.
The Spartans' Big Ten schedule includes Purdue, Rutgers and Indiana away with home games against Maryland, Penn State University, Illinois and Ohio State University. MSU softball will play at Secchia Stadium 16 times in 2017.
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